/Tag: Personal and Humor

Never Waste A Good Crisis

By |2016-08-09T15:12:51+00:00May 16th, 2015|Enterprise Architecture|

The title of this post is a bit of advice I first heard many years ago, while working on an Enterprise Architecture review of a troubled software development effort.  Never waste a good crisis.

Of course, no crisis is good for the person going through it.  Be compassionate.  And I’m not talking about a personal crisis like the death of a loved one.  I’m talking about a crisis in business, like when a company changes strategy leaving customers out in the cold, or when a new technology simply fails to deliver any value, leaving the champion with less buy-in from his business stakeholders.

These are the little crises of business.  It often starts with someone taking a risk that doesn’t produce an hoped-for return.  If that someone is a senior leader, and they are smart, they have already collected their bonus or promotion and moved on, so they won’t get the blow-back from their own failure.  But just as often, the person who took a risk is still around to get hit with “blame and shame.”

Unhealthy as it is in a corporate environment, blame and shame is common.  When something goes wrong, someone takes the fall.

But for an influencer like an Enterprise Architect, a crisis can be a good thing.  Why?  Because we are change agents.  And people won’t change unless they are forced to change.  John Kotter, in his book “Leading Change” suggests that one of the greatest obstacles to change is complacency.  Change just isn’t urgent enough.  He’s completely right, and a crisis is often what is needed to break through complacency. (more…)

Ten Ways to Kill An Enterprise Architecture Practice

By |2013-09-05T18:30:19+00:00September 5th, 2013|Enterprise Architecture|

Have you seen practices that you know could kill an Enterprise Architecture practice?  I have.  A recent LinkedIn thread asked for examples, and I came up with my top ten.  I’d love to hear your additions to the list.

How to screw up an EA practice

  1. Get a senior leader to ask for EA without any idea of what he is going to get for it. If necessary, lie. Tell leaders that EA will improve their agility or reduce complexity without telling them that THEY and THEIR BUSINESS will have to change.
  2. Set no goals. Allow individual architects to find their own architecture opportunities and to do them any way they want.   Encourage cowboy architecture.
  3. Buy a tool first. Tell everyone that they need to wait for results until the tool is implemented and all the integration is complete.
  4. Get everyone trained on a "shell framework" like Zachman. Then tell your stakeholders that using the framework will provide immediate benefits.
  5. Work with stakeholders to make sure that your EA’s are involved in their processes without any clear idea of what the EA is supposed to do there. Just toss ’em in and let them float.
  6. Delete all the data from your tool. Give no one any reason why. You were just having a bad hair day.
  7. Get in front of the most senior people you can, and when you get there, tell them how badly they do strategic planning.
  8. Change your offerings every four months. Each time, only share the new set of architectural services with about 20% of your stakeholders.
  9. Create a conceptual model of the enterprise that uses terms that no one in the enterprise uses. Refer to well known business thinkers as sources. When people complain, tell them that they are wrong. Never allow aliases.
  10. Every time you touch an IT project, slow it down. Occasionally throw a fit and stop an IT project just for fun. Escalate as high as you can every time. Win your battles at all costs.

Your career will be short. 🙂

A Modern Update to The Blind Men and The Elephant

By |2012-01-11T02:38:01+00:00January 11th, 2012|Enterprise Architecture|

My humble apologies to John Godfrey Saxe, whose poem I have modified to add a seventh man, and to make a point…


‘twas seven men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach’d the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -"Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he,
"’Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

Silent was the Seventh man
Who heard the heated fray
Not touching the amazing beast
Upon that fateful day
Chose wisely to collect his clues
From what each had to say

Concluding from the evidence
That no man clearly knew
The seventh man did not attempt
To posit what was true
Instead he sought to ascertain
what the beast could do

Tried and failed, and tried again
This man did ply his art
Invented he, a harness great
And cried out from his heart
“I cannot see the shape of it
but it sure can pull a cart!”


So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

The wise, instead, do not delay
to overcome their lack of vision
They absorbs, from fellow men, their
thoughts and intuition
And then they act to journey forth
accomplishing their mission

On vacation

By |2010-08-23T17:07:00+00:00August 23rd, 2010|Enterprise Architecture|

…at a really great place.  I’m at Rancho La Puerta, a “destination spa” in Tecate Mexico (just south of the US border in the Baja California). 

Now that my wife and I have been here a couple of days, I can heartily recommend the experience.  I am eating healthy, delicious food, prepared by excellent chefs, grown organically on site.  I am enjoying activities like Tennis, Sand Volleyball, Latin Dancing, Yoga, and Ballet, in addition to “normal” fitness activities like Fit-ball, Circuit training, and water aerobics… and that is just in the first two days.  Climbed a mountain this morning.  I’ll post photos on Facebook. 

Big rounds of appreciation to my dear Mother-in-Law for agreeing to spend time with my kids while we are here… and big hugs to my three angels for behaving for their grandmother (hopefully ;-).  But most of all, a long, warm, slow hug for my darling wife Marina, for putting up with me for twenty years (as of September 1).  No one is luckier, more blessed, and more grateful than I am.

Microsoft annual Day of Caring becomes part of National Day of Service

By |2009-09-14T14:22:00+00:00September 14th, 2009|Enterprise Architecture|

Now that the president and the United Way have teamed up to proclaim that 9/11 shall be honored, each year, with a national day of service and volunteerism, Microsoft jumped onto the band wagon in large numbers. 

Thousands of individual Microsoft Employees signed up for our annual Day of Caring activities, a tradition that goes back to the early days when Bill Gate’s mother used to lead the United Way in the Seattle/Redmond area. 

I’m proud to be one of them.  Many members of the Microsoft IT Technology Office, including CTO Barry Briggs, personally took part in activities to support a local charity that provides trained assistance dogs to handicapped individuals (For more information or to support Summit Assistance Dogs, please see their site at http://www.summitdogs.org/).  It was a morning of scrubbing kennels, bathing dogs, general maintenance, and learning about ways that we can support their good efforts. 

It was also a chance to get out into the community and show that Microsoft cares.  Microsoft’s support for charity is amazing.  As an employee, my contributions to non-profit agencies are matched, dollar for dollar, and my volunteer time is even matched with financial contributions from Microsoft.  I can submit records of my contributions, or, if I’d like, I can sign up to have automatic deductions from my paycheck made available directly to the charities of my choice (which I do). 

That level of support really makes a difference. As a Microsoft employee, I have given more to various charities in the last five years than in all prior years of my career combined.  I’m more proud of my employer, on the Day of Caring each year, than at almost any other time. 

Microsoft, on days like 9/11, proves to me that it cares about being a good citizen, contributing to the communities around the world where Microsoft can make a difference, and for that, Microsoft earns my respect and praise.

On becoming and being a Mensch

By |2009-09-11T12:56:47+00:00September 11th, 2009|Enterprise Architecture|

I mentioned to a Christian friend of mine, yesterday, that I consider him to be a “mensch.”  He was unaware of the term, and it made me wonder what other folks say about the becoming and being a mensch.  I ran across Guy Kawasaki’s blog post on the topic, but to me, his post didn’t really provide the meaning that I’d look for. 

First off, the word Mensch comes from the Yiddish and literally means “man.”  The real meaning is deeper, because, to be a Mensch means to be a “Good Man.”  The Oxford English Dictionary has an excellent definition:

In Jewish usage: a person of integrity or rectitude; a person who is morally just, honest, or honourable.  [OED]

So how does someone go about becoming a Mensch, and remaining one?  To me, there are a small number of rules:

1) Treat each person you meet in the manner that all people should be treated.  This goes beyond treating someone the way you would want to be treated… the golden rule.  I am a forgiving person.  If someone is rude to me, I forgive them.  But no one should be treated rudely.  To treat others as they should be treated is a higher calling.  It means to consider how all people should behave: to imagine the world that G_d would want us to live in, and then live there. 

2) To be an example to others of how people should behave.  This is a kind of humble leadership that implies that you behave as if a small child is watching you, learning from you, emulating you, each moment of the day.  That doesn’t mean to be perfect, but it does mean to be self-aware.  Do nothing that you wouldn’t want your son or daughter to be able to stand on stage, as a valedictorian, and cite as an example of your leadership.

3) To perform acts of love and kindness expecting no reward or recognition.  This goes beyond anonymous donation to good charity (although that is a wonderful thing to do).  This goes to everything from small kindnesses to your neighbors, to acts of random kindness to strangers, to moments of honest forgiveness to those that have wronged you.

4) Seek out those that you have wronged, and apologize.  There is a ritual among Jews.  Each year, as Yom Kippur approaches, each Jew is to actively seek out the people that he or she has wronged, apologize, and do their best to right the wrong.  An excellent post on this topic is here.  This is a huge part of being a mensch to me.  This act is one of the most humbling things you can do.  I recommend it to anyone, not just Jews.  You will feel better for it.

5) To heal the world, deeply and meaningfully.  There is an old tale of how the world was perfect once, but it has been cracked and broken.  Each person has a responsibility to heal it, to find a place where your special gifts allow you to close a wound, right a wrong, or stand up for the weak, helpless, or powerless among us.  Tikkun Olam.  Heal the world.  This does not mean that you have to help a thousand people.  You can help one deeply troubled soul.  Or you can teach, or feed, or clothe, or protect, or defend, or support.  Do what your gifts allow you to do.  Grow your gifts… nurture them… become the best you can be, so that you can heal the world in the best way that you can.

That, to me, is what it means to be a mensch.  To be humble.  Good.  Worthy of emulation.  Kind.  Honest.  Loving. 

One day, I will die and be buried.  The one thing I want someone to say of me, in honesty, is that I was a mensch.

Very Funny – Trailer for Office 2010 – The Movie

By |2009-07-10T19:09:29+00:00July 10th, 2009|Enterprise Architecture|

Even non-geeks will get a huge kick out of this, and I’m betting that most of the folks who follow my blog will find it as funny as I did… Word up. 

My only question for the MS Marketing guys who finally loosened up enough to pay for a viral video: What Took You So Long!

Special kudos to Traffik, the agency that did the work.  Excellent Job!


By |2009-05-05T19:30:00+00:00May 5th, 2009|Enterprise Architecture|

I started two good blog posts today.  Both will wait for another day, as I take this space to say goodbye to three colleagues friends  from my department who were laid off today.

Gentlemen, I am sorry to see you go.  I consider myself blessed  to have had the opportunity to work with such talented, intelligent, and gracious individuals.  We worked on some great projects together, and from each of you, I’ve learned many things.  Please stay in touch and let me know where you land. 

To my readers, I’ll wax philosophic another day.  Today, I cannot.

[update: 7-May-09  I’ve just been informed of the layoffs of three more friends in other teams.  One name is familiar to the blogosphere.  The others were simply excellent employees. 

I cannot say that this process has been anything less than personally painful.]

To all those who have lost their jobs, in Microsoft and every other business or organization this past half year, I send this famous Irish saying:

“May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you
In the palm of his hand.”

B’hatzlacha – Good Luck

Architecture in a hot air balloon

By |2009-02-11T02:58:41+00:00February 11th, 2009|Enterprise Architecture|

There is a joke that I sometimes like to refer to, more as an allegorical story than anything else.  This version is from AJokeADay.com:

A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted,” Excuse me, can you help? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am."

The woman below thought carefully for five minutes, and then replied, "You are in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You are between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude."

"You must be an engineer," said the balloonist.

"I am," replied the woman. "How did you know?"

"Well," answered the balloonist, "you took a long time to respond, and everything you told me is technically correct, but it is of no value to my problem.  I am still lost.  Frankly, you’ve not been much help so far."

The woman below responded, "You must be in management."

"I am," replied the balloonist, "but how did you know?"

"Well," said the woman, "you don’t know where you are or where you are going. You have risen to where you are, due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise which you have no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it’s my fault!"

So it’s funny, but it is a useful story as well. 

All architecture, in any real sense, is an attempt to communicate a complex set of ideas.

Architecture is an answer to a question.  So many architects strive for accuracy in their “answers” (the architectural diagrams they produce), and we see countless discussions of the “correct” way to model this thing or that… but while accuracy is great, usefulness is so much more important. 

In some ways, that is what the IEEE 1471 / ISO 42010 standard is all about.  For those of you not familiar with IEEE 1471, it is a metamodel for all architecture.  This simple document frames architecture as an attempt to communicate, using the language of architectural models. 

But what is more important in the standard is not that architecture communicates… it is the fact that architecture, in order to succeed, must communicate to the specific concerns of specific stakeholders.  In other words, you must consider the needs of the audience before delivering the requested information, and then deliver what they need in a clear manner, even if it is not technically what they asked for.

In the joke, an engineer responds to the question from stranded businessman that he is 30 feet off the ground.  Accurate but unhelpful.  An architect would consider the businessman to be a stakeholder, and would take his concerns into account. 

Instead of replying with data that is of no value, the architect would toss up a cell phone to allow the businessman to call his friend and reschedule.  The businessman would still be lost, and hovering in a balloon… but at least his pressing concerns would be met. 

Honestly, what else could you ask for?